Sometimes I don’t know how much I believe in something until it’s happening. While I can be quite nostalgic, I am not one to think about how I will feel ahead of time. The seminars we just hosted with Justice Water could be classified as a total “sneak attack” on my emotions, for sure. There was a lot that we came up against, and yet because we believed so much in what we were doing and the symbolism of it all, we were able to persevere.
These were not just any ol’ seminar. Justice Water on the island prides itself on being something which empowers locals, so seminars and teachings are not necessarily something “new”. However, these seminars were different. They were this last little piece to a puzzle that took us (some might say) quite a long time to put together. When I say that every dang day I felt thankful and overwhelmed and surprised and nostalgic and proud- that is no understatement. I felt so happy to be a small part of what these seminars were used, by God, to do.
We took two weeks to train the guys and girls who have shown an interest over a long period of time to run and manage Justice Water in an area of the island. These men and women represent a generation of Haitian and Dominican people who are tired of being told they can’t make a difference; they are tired of relying on a hand out; they want change and they know they have to do it. It is super humbling and empowering for us to even have been in the same room.
We went over technologies we have all completed together. We went in depth for the reasoning behind even drinking clean water or even using a dual chamber latrine. Things we take for granted that our parents or teachers taught us were re-instructed during this time to our educated, well intentioned Justice Water staff guys and girls. We spent time talking about ways to instruct their teams, their friends and their families. We talked about the nuts and bolts. Most of all, we talked about how much we believed in them.
There was a point in time where I looked over at Ryan teaching on the Biblical mandate for a toilet and I thought about our first time together out of the country-Tanzania. I remember, so clearly in fact, how immature I was to laugh at the poop picture that a Tanzanian woman used to empower and educate a Massai tribe about digging a hole to use for the bathroom. What I didn’t know was that years later I would be the one imparting that knowledge on a group of people who unnecessarily lost thousands to cholera- when bathrooms and sanitation could have prevented the spread.
What I never expected was how empowering it would be for our friends on the island to hear the fact that God Himself instructed a way to stop the spread of infection transmitted through fecal matter. Want to show Haitians and Dominicans that God loves them? How about reminding them of the verses spread out through the Old Testament about the way the tent-dwelling Israelites should go about living their life? That stuff is practical. It’s not all cherubs and worship music, it’s real life in your face “to do”s for those living in the developing world. The look on the faces of these men and women when we tell them God wants them to have a sanitary life is the “good news”.
Overall, the seminars taught me more than I think we imparted to the local students. Or maybe it was just a holy exchange of empowerment, information and belief. Haiti can be different. The Dominican Republic can be different. Most of all, we can be different. Isn’t that exciting?